Fred Yoder: John Fraser TT Report

John Fraser Memorial TT

Opening Rationalization
Just because we are intelligent and have years of experience doesn’t mean we always make the best decisions. Or perhaps after 60+ years of hyperactive brain activity, some of the neurotransmitters implode trying to cross the synaptic cleft? (http://www.ifisiol.unam.mx/Brain/synap.htm).

Day before the race
Twenty mph winds from SW are predicted for Maple Park on Sunday. To gain some advantage against the headwind in tomorrow’s race, I am going to take a calculated risk and mount the aero bars that have been hibernating in the closet for the past year. Not wanting to damage the upgraded carbon handlebars on my “good” ($800) racing bike, I mount the aero bars on my old Tirreno commuter bike. The SunTour barcon shift cable for the rear derailleur was never wrapped under the handlebar tape so it could be “easily” moved to the end of the aero bar some day. An hour or two later the aero bars are mounted and ready for a trial run on the indoor trainer. After working up a sweat reclining on the new bars, I decide to make a couple minor adjustments. I raise the seat post 1mm, move the seat forward 1cm and drop the saddle nose a scosh. Another 10 minutes on the trainer and I declare the setup “good to go”. Later, I clean and lube the chain and remove the oily limestone dust from the gears and pulleys. Then the light brackets are removed and Polar mounting bracket is attached cross-wise on the stem. I also remove the front down tube bottle cage to improve aerodynamics, but leave the seat tube bottle (having read somewhere that will actually improve aerodynamics). Swap wheels between bikes to replace the heavy wire bead commuter tires with my well worn 120 psi Contie Attack/Force tires and organize my gear to pack in the truck tomorrow morning.

What are you thinking:
This guy is asking for trouble. Everyone knows you don’t make modifications to your bike the day before the race or make position adjustment without significant road time to verify the changes are positive. Not a problem. This bike is ridden more than my race bike. This race isn’t the Prologue to le Tour. Fallback plan if aero bars don’t work is to go back to the drops. The physical change risk is minimal, and the mental advantage of driving my fists into the face of the diabolical headwinds is priceless.

Registration and Warm-up
Find plenty of parking south of the tracks and check in for my pre-registered starting position #12 at 10:06:00. It is now 9:00 and there is plenty of time for a nice slow warm up on the trainer (old folks need extra time to get limbered up). Decide to leave the car near registration, since I am schedule to help with registration after completing my race. The sun feels warm on my back but the wind is cool. The tights and light long-sleeved poly tee under my jersey should be perfect for this weather. The tights and tee are snug and will probably create less drag than my hairy arms and legs. My number is pinned at the corners through the paper (not the holes) to minimize the possibility of tearing and flapping in the wind. Work up to a good sweat on the trainer and take a final swig of Gatorade (advertising plug intended). It is now 9:40 and time to roll.

To the Starting Gate
There are no restrooms open near registration, so cross the RR tracks to the porta-potties by the park. Out on County Line road I am finally able to get the feel of using the aero bars on the open road. The gusty quartering tailwind makes it difficult to hold a straight line and after turning into the wind it seems worse. Checking my speed on the sideways Polar, I notice my speed is zero and realize the wheel magnet for the sensor needs to be adjusted. Since my heart rate sensor belt disappeared during a “senior moment” somewhere between Tracy, California and Winfield, I panic at the thought of not having HR or speed to monitor my pace. The time is now 9:50, so there is plenty of time to return to the truck, grab a dime from my jeans pocket and adjust the magnet. As the magnet slides down the spoke 5mm into alignment with the sensor, I hear a train whistle and my heart leaps into my throat. The train is coming from the east, but then another whistle sounds and a second train is coming from the west. Make a couple loops around town to stay warm. Finally the trains pass and I cross the tracks and roll to the start where #14 is waiting. “What do I do? I am #12.” and the official says “Just Go”.

Off to the Races
I stand on the pedals and quickly try to decide if I should continue or go back to registration and try to get another starting time. Since I’m scheduled to work registration and there is rain forecast for later, I keep going. First left turn is restricted to single lane, so slow down to make sure I don’t wipe the asphalt on the first corner of the first race of the season. The tailwind boosts my spirits and my speed reads 25 as I make the bend toward the East. Stay on the bars on the flats and downhills and sit up for the rollers to get more air to cool my burning lungs. Everything feels good and I try to hold perceived effort to about 95%, knowing it will need the extra 5% on the return. The straight-block freewheel and the barcon shifter allow me to easily change gears to keep a constant power output through the hills and wind shifts. Approaching the turn around, I bleed the speed more than necessary - better to lose a few seconds than wipe out. Out of the saddle into the wind, but quickly get down on the aero bars and focus on form. Keep the back straight and chin up. I’m encouraged to see the speed is holding at 18 although the wind is slightly more from the side than head on. The wind gusts are making it impossible to track a straight line, but never feel out of control. Turning into the South leg I get the full impact of the headwind. Into the shallow climb my speed drops below 16 for the first time since the turn-around.

Finish Strong
I push to regain my momentum, but nothing happens – the iron in my blood has turned to lead in my legs. Just gear down to maintain cadence and then see another rider ahead. The chase opportunity seems to automatically boost my speed and I pass the rider before turning west toward the finish line. On the slight downhill the speed hits 21 and I cross the anaerobic threshold (or whatever it is called these days) and consciously start blowing with each breath to make sure maximum air volume is brought into lungs. Yell “Number twelve” as I cross the finish and drop back to a very slow recovery pace. Rolling north on County Line the feeling is returning to my legs, and as I turn around to return to registration, I hear a train whistle……. Finish time 30:54.37 – good enough to move from 4th to 2nd in the men’s 60+ series standings.

Closing Rationalization
Not that we old timers are the only ones that have brain cramps (http://braincramp.comicgen.com). Some young man came to the registration table to ask if anyone had cleats he could borrow for the race. New items for Race Day Checklist:

Cleats attached to shoes
Cyclometer operational
Don’t allow railroad tracks come between you and the race.

Fred Yoder

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